Mar 13 2009

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Woodpecker on Mt. Philo

Posted at 8:01 am under Blog Post

I drove to Mt. Philo the other day on impulse, after running errands in Burlington.  I figured the remnant snow on the access road leading to the summit would give my legs a good workout.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Although the punky snow wasn’t more than a few inches deep, climbing the foothill was like climbing a giant sand dune.  Yeah, a good workout.

A strong March wind tossed the trees back and forth while I hiked.  The chill of it glazed my eyes with tears.  I walked with my head down for the most part, lost in the abstractions I had been writing about earlier that day, along with the sobering financial news that had streamed over the radio during the drive.  Only my own heavy breathing kept me linked to the here and now – that and my goofy dog, Matika, running back and forth as fast as she could, all smiles.

Towards the top of Mt. Philo, a pileated woodpecker cried out loud and clear, wrenching me from my thoughts.  I stopped to listen more intently but it didn’t cry out again.  Strange silence.  Only the sound of roaring wind.  Then I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and, sure enough, there was the silhouette of that pointy-headed bird etched against the gray sky.  It clung to a dying birch for a second or two then disappeared, making me wonder if I’d actually seen it at all.  I finished my hike to the summit, temporarily loosing sight of surrounding trees to a thickening fog.

What is important – the human condition, a drop in the Dow, or the brief glimpse of a woodpecker on a misty day?  Perhaps none of it is.  Perhaps the smile on my dog’s face, a bone-chilling wind, and my own sweat-soaked shirt is all that matters.

I gazed across the Champlain Valley from a lookout atop Mt. Philo for a short while before finishing the hike, slip-sliding back down the car.  Halfway down the hill, I heard the woodpecker again.  One call to greet me, the other to say goodbye.  I stopped and turned in the general direction of the call but saw nothing.  So much the better.  That way it melded into my abstractions and stayed with me the rest of the day.

It’s hard to say whether the current downturn in the global economy will end soon or continue for years to come.  I don’t know where all my philosophical abstractions will take me, either.  But this I do know:  the wind will blow through trees, dogs will romp in snow, and woodpeckers will call out long after I’m dead and gone.  Maybe I should focus on that.

One response so far

One Response to “Woodpecker on Mt. Philo”

  1. Andrewon 21 Mar 2009 at 8:10 pm 1

    Loved this post.